Gastroenteritis, the stomach flu: What to know

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States and is a highly contagious illness caused by infection with a virus called norovirus. It is often called by other names, such as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu and food poisoning.

The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Norovirus can make people feel extremely ill and vomit or have diarrhea many times a day.

Most people get better within 1 to 2 days.

Anyone can get norovirus, and they can have the illness multiple times during their lifetime.

Dehydration can be a problem among some people with norovirus infection, especially the very young, the elderly, and people with other illnesses.

Norovirus is highly contagious and spreads rapidly because of the ease of transmission.

People with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days and perhaps for as long as 2 weeks after recovery, making control of the disease even more difficult.

Sources for infection

Noroviruses are found in the stool and vomit of infected people. People can become infected by:
Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.

  • Touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth.
  • Having direct contact with an infected person; for example, by exposure to the virus when caring for or when sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with an infected person.

Prevention tips

  • Practice proper hand hygiene: Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food.   
  • Take care in the kitchen: Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
  • Do not prepare food while infected: People who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces: After an episode of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a solution made by adding 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of water.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly: Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or fecal matter. Handle soiled items carefully — without agitating them — to avoid spreading virus. They should be laundered with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.

There is no specific treatment or vaccine for norovirus infection and there is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection, although this is an area of active research.

There is no specific drug to treat people with norovirus illness.

Rehydration is important for infected people — they must drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost through vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, fluid may need to be given intravenously.

Source: Winnebago County Health Department


New ‘Grown in’ labels to clarify food sources

A new label providing information on the country of origin of some foods has been introduced nationally.

Minister of Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, said the new ‘Grown in’ label, which is similar to existing labels such as ‘Made in’ and ‘Product of,’ will provide clarity for consumers about the source of foods as well as offer new protection for suppliers.

“The new arrangements will protect growers, processors and retailers from legal action if they meet the criteria for ‘Grown in’ claims in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL),” he said.

“The new rules will help consumers to buy Australian produce with confidence.  Producers will be more confident about marking goods as ‘Grown in Australia’ and consumers will have more certainty that they are buying Australian-grown produce.

“Consumers will remain protected from false origin claims by the enforcement activities of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the State and Territory authorities, under existing mechanisms.”

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, said the new provision will help inform consumer choice in making purchasing decisions.

“These changes deliver on our commitment to ‘simplify and strengthen food labelling laws including a new Grown in Australia label’.”

The ACL is a cooperative reform of the Australian and state and territory governments aimed at harmonising regulation.

The ACL took effect nationally on 1 January 2011.